Saturday 13 February 2021

Are today's teenagers better for cat welfare than previous generations?

It's worthwhile asking whether today's teenagers, in developed countries, are going to improve cat welfare or not. They are the future. We depend upon them to make improvements in domestic and wild cat welfare and it needs improvement. So what is today's teenager like compared to past generations?

It seems to me that there are two major influences on modern-day teenagers: the internet and smart phones which has led one specialist on the subject to described them as 'iGens' -  and Covid-19.

Teenager with cat
Teenager with cat. Picture: Pixabay.

I know Covid-19 is a very recent event but it is so major and so impactful that it has to be included in this discussion. The pandemic also serves to reinforce the modern teenager's dependence upon smart phones and the internet. This in turn leads them to a less active, outdoor life and one which is more centred within themselves and at home.

But this in turn leads to poor emotional health. It is well reported that today's teenager tends to suffer greater mental health issues than previous generations. Some put this down to social media which has a competitiveness about it in terms of attainment and a person's image i.e. how they are projected towards the world. There is a lot of false messaging on the internet.

There is an increase in problems with self-image, dissatisfaction with their bodies and their standing in the world. IGens spend 5 to 6 hours a day using their smart phones hanging out online and texting et cetera. More than two hours a day can cause mental health problems, it is said.

IGens grow up more slowly. They hang out with their parents more, put off sex and the task of obtaining a driver's licence. Is this a consequence of being self absorbed and living within your head inside the home rather than going out and exploring the world and taking some knocks and learning about life? If they grow more slowly they are going to be less well developed emotionally and less ready to deal with life's problems. Isn't that a fair assessment?

It is believed that iGens are more caring for others. They are more aware of diversity and perhaps this is the woke movement which has caused a greater awareness of equality in society.

Perhaps it is fair to say that today's teenagers are more protected. Not by design but by consequence of being glued to a smart phone and the Internet and texting etc.. It creates a cosseted environment in which the girl or boy is removed sometimes from the reality of the world which in turn slows development and growing up to adulthood. The inability to buy one's own home exacerbates the problem. And career advancement has been damaged by Covid-19. This may last a long time.

Today's teens watch less television, drink less, use heroin less, use meth less, carry weapons to school less and so on (American survey). They appear to be better behaved but this may be because of a general trend in society and a greater awareness and education about the dangers of using these drugs. Teen pregnancy has declined rapidly apparently over the past really case. Is this in line with a failure of teens to grow up?

I sense, and it has to be a sense because the data is incredibly complicated and there are so many layers to this discussion, that today' teenager is more likely to be suffering from some to the mental health issue arising out of failure to engage the world because they are overly-engaged in Internet interactions and smartphone use which has been exacerbated by the Covid pandemic.

This in turn should result in better domestic cat care in the present because domestic cats are going to be with teenagers more often. In the long term there may also be a benefit in terms of animal welfare because the greater the interaction between teenager and family cat the more the teenager learns about the animal which should promote welfare in the future. Perhaps I'm being idealistic.

Cat welfare is about education above all else. The alternative point of view is that if modern teenagers are too engrossed in entertaining themselves using the Internet rather than educating themselves about the hard facts of animal welfare, both domestic and wild, then perhaps in the long term there will be a dearth of passionate and committed animal welfare advocates.

The bottom line is that the modern lifestyle of teenagers in the West is in general terms unhealthy.

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